Covid: Thailand tourism up but still below pre-pandemic level

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Thailand says tourist numbers jumped last year, as coronavirus restrictions were eased, but remained way below pre-pandemic levels.

The South East Asia holiday destination saw 11.81m tourists in 2022 – up from just 400,000 the previous year.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand also forecast that figure will more than double to 25m this year.

However, those figures are still much lower than the record 39.8m tourists Thailand saw in 2019.

The country is set to start charging overseas visitors 300 baht ($9.20; £7.40) each from the start of June.

Thailand now has a target to increase tourist numbers to 80m a year by 2027.

Tourism revenue accounted for more than 10% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019. In 2021 it was just 1%. GDP, which measures all economic activity, is an important tool for looking at how well, or badly, an economy is doing.

By aiming to more than double the number of people who visited before the pandemic, the Thai government hopes to see tourism spending rise above $150bn.

“This target, once achieved, could raise the country’s tourism revenue to 5tn baht in 2027,” the government’s Public Relations Department said in a Facebook post.

The announcement also said Thailand plans to upgrade “tourism safety standards in order to accommodate the influx of visitors.”

This month the country announced, but then quickly withdrew, a decision to request proof of Covid-19 vaccination for visitors entering Thailand.

Like much of South East Asia, Thailand is expected to see a jump in tourist numbers from China, which dropped the strict border controls it put in place during the pandemic.

In December China’s immigration administration said passport applications for its citizens wishing to travel internationally would resume from 8 January.

The announcement brought to an end almost three years of strict quarantine rules for arrivals and prompted a rush of people booking overseas trips, with travel sites reporting a spike in traffic.

Before the pandemic China was Thailand’s biggest source of tourists, with almost 11m visitors in 2019. This year the country is expecting at least five million Chinese tourists.

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